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Both Carolina Boots and Red Wing Shoes boast an impressive product range that covers just about any style or safety feature you might have in mind. This is exactly why it’s hard to pick between the two.
That being the case, I’m writing this thorough comparison to help my fellow blue-collar workers score the best possible pair of work boots for their profession.
Let’s get down to brass tacks.
Must Read: Check my Chippewa boots vs Redwing comparison article.
Carolina Boots vs Red Wing: At a Glance
- If you work in a demanding or hazardous work environment
- If you’re looking for a super comfortable pair of work boots
- If you’re looking for a pair of boots that are elegant and stylish
- If you’re tired of wearing thick socks to maintain a good fit
- If you’re looking for work boots that are durable but flexible
Buy Red Wing:
- If you work in a work environment that requires lots of traction
- If you’re looking for the best variety of tanned leather
- If you’re looking for a high-quality hiking boot
- If you champion stability and maximum durability
- If you’re looking for a pair of boots that are perfect for logging
Carolina Pros and Cons
- High-tech cushioning systems
- Fit is true to size
- One of the best in terms of safety
- Boots are resoleable and customizable
- Very reasonable pricing
- Not all boots are made in the USA
- Less traction than Red Wing boots
Red Wing Pros and Cons
- Excellent steel toe work boots
- Remarkable stability and traction
- Boots are resoleable
- High-quality full grain leather
- Outstanding durability
- Fewer safety features than Carolina
- Not the most budget-friendly option
Carolina vs Red Wing: Brief Overview
In this section of the comparison, I’m mainly going to shed light on the history of each brand very briefly. I’m also going to list some of each brand’s most popular models.
Carolina Brand Spotlight
Carolina Shoe Company was established in 1963 in North Carolina. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the company started to gain momentum, having released their first cowboy boot with a safety toe box.
Since then, Carolina’s popularity has been on the incline. The brand is behind some of the most high-quality logger boots, engineer boots, and hiking boots on the market.
While Carolina’s product range is mostly catered to men, the brand still offers a decent range of safety toe shoes for women, as well as casual shoes for children.
Most popular models:
- Pitstop Logger Comp Toe
- Elm Int Steel Toe
- Insulated Circuit Hi Comp Toe
- Marlboro Lo Steel Toe
- Foreman Steel Toe
- Tank Oxford Steel Toe
- Hook Comp Toe
- Insulated Journeyman
- Quad Soft Toe Boot
- Milar Waterproof Boot
Red Wing Brand Spotlight
Red Wing is one of the three biggest work boot brands in the world, alongside Wolverine and Timberland. The brand has been around since 1905, so it has many years of experience under its belt.
In addition to Red Wing’s own lines of footwear, the brand manufactures safety shoes and work boots under other brand names, including Irish Setter, Worx, and Vasque.
To this day, Red Wing’s craftsmen still make use of traditional construction—i.e. tanning, lasting, bottoming, and so forth—to produce remarkably durable footwear.
Red Wing produces a wide range of safety shoes and work boots for both men and women, from safety toe and soft toe boots to waterproof and even CSA-approved boots.
Most popular models:
- Iron Ranger
- Classic Moc
- King Toe
- Traction Tred
- Logger Max
Carolina Work Boots vs Red Wings: Product Range Comparison
Now that you have a brief idea of what Carolina and Red Wing are all about, it’s time for the two to square off. Let’s see which brand offers the best logger boots and which one offers the best moc toe boots.
Logger Boots Comparison
The Pitstop Logger Comp Toe (CA9532), also referred to as the Men’s 8-Inch Waterproof Comp Toe Logger, is Carolina’s most popular boot. It’s actually my personal favorite Carolina boot.
There’s a lot to like about the Pitstop, from the Connection Alcatraz Barnyard acid-resistant leather upper and the carbon composite toe to the Scubaliner waterproofing technology.
This remarkable boot is perfect for workers who constantly find themselves on wet and uneven terrain, like loggers and construction workers. It provides the support and stability you need to carry out heavy-duty tasks.
The Pitstop is also designed with an emphasis on comfort, featuring an Overtime footbed, triple-rib steel shank, and Tripleflex welt construction. It also features a slip-resistant and oil-resistant rubber outsole.
Red Wing’s representative in the logger boots category is the sturdy LoggerMax Men’s 9-Inch Insulated Waterproof Safety Toe Boot (4416). This is one of the most durable work boots in the safety footwear market!
The LoggerMax flaunts ultra-durable Goodyear welt construction between the upper and the lug sole. It provides excellent traction and stability in uneven terrain, which makes it ideal for demanding outdoor jobs.
The boot offers 400g 3M Thinsulate Ultra insulation, Red Wing waterproofing, and it meets ASTM safety standards in terms of electrical hazard protection. It’s a very well-rounded work boot.
Does the LoggerMax beat the Pitstop, though? It depends. If you seek maximum comfort, the Pitstop is your go-to. If you seek maximum traction, the LoggerMax is your go-to. I’d call it a tie.
Moc Toe Boots Comparison
The purpose of a moc toe boot is to protect your toe from getting injured. Virtually all moc toe boots are compatible with ASTM safety regulations, including Carolina’s AMP USA Steel Toe (CA7811), also referred to as the Men’s 6-Inch Domestic Moc Steel Toe Wedge Work Boot.
Once again, Carolina excels when it comes to comfort with this boot. It features Poron Performance Cushioning that not only absorbs shocks but also adds to the boot’s overall durability. It also helps with moisture resistance, seeing as Poron has air-permeable open cells.
This moc toe boot incorporates a steel safety toe cap, an old town folklore leather upper, a steel shank, and welt construction. It’s highly resistant to oils and slips. On top of that, this boot is union-made!
This Carolina boot is perfect for construction workers, warehouse workers, ironworkers, and just about any blue-collar worker who’s looking for ultimate toe protection.
The Red Wing Heritage Men’s Classic Moc 6-Inch Boot (8890) is an iconic boot that was first introduced in 1952. It’s currently one of Red Wing’s best-selling products.
The Classic Moc is considered a legend of a boot when it comes to durability, thanks to its Puritan triple stitching and Traction Tred rubber outsole. It’s especially popular among farm and factory workers.
Seeing as it belongs to the Heritage line, the Classic Moc is made entirely in the US. It’s designed to accommodate a wide range of foot shapes, thanks to the extra room at the instep and forefoot.
Both the AMP USA Steel Toe and the Classic Moc are remarkable when it comes to durability. However, when it comes to comfort, I have to hand it to Carolina; that Poron Performance Cushioning is something else! Carolina takes the win.
Carolina Boots and Red Wing are known to incorporate a range of leather varieties for products. In this section of the comparison, I’m going to shed light on the different leather types utilized by both brands. I’m also going to talk about each brand’s leather tanning process.
Here are some of Carolina’s most popular leather varieties:
- Copper crazy horse leather
- Alcatraz Barnyard leather
- Old town folklore leather
- Wheat nubuck leather
- Borris tan leather
- Traction dark earth leather
As far as the leather tanning process, Carolina uses a very specific blend of waxes and oils that helps make the leather supple and extra soft.
Here are some of Red Wing’s most popular leather varieties:
- Copper rough and tough leather
- Oro-russet leather
- Amber harness leather
- Oro-legacy leather
- Briar oil slick leather
- Featherstone leather
The vast majority of Red Wing boots are oil-tanned. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering Red Wing Shoes is the owner of S.B. Foot Tanning Company, which is one of the largest oil tanneries out there.
Carolina Boots and Red Wing Shoe Company utilize different materials and technologies for their sole construction. Let’s take a look at how each brand’s soles are designed.
- Insoles: For the insoles, Carolina utilizes a thick polyurethane foam undercarriage. The foam is molded for optimal support and is combined with a layer of memory foam to ensure comfort. Carolina calls this the Overtime Comfort System.
- Midsole: Carolina employs Pillow Cushion 2 technology for their midsoles. This technology consists of two components: an internal polyurethane layer and a dual-density memory foam footbed.
- Outsole: Different Carolina boots have different outsoles. Some of the brand’s most popular outsoles include WorkFlex Outsole, Maxum Lite, Aerotrek, and Aerogrip. Click here to learn more about each outsole.
- Insoles: Most Red Wing work shoes feature a heel-to-toe layer of polyurethane as the insole, otherwise known as Comfort Force footbeds. Some Red Wing boots utilize a leather insole, alternatively.
- Midsole: Cork filling is usually the go-to material for Red Wing midsoles. Red Wing is known for its hard midsoles, which can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but they definitely ensure a longer lifespan.
- Outsole: Red Wing is known for its use of Vibram outsoles, which strike an excellent balance between durability and functionality. The brand is also known for its use of lug soles, which are perfect for weather protection and maximum traction.
Even though Carolina Boots and Red Wing are on the list of work boot brands that are dominating the market, both brands fall short with certain styles of boots. For instance, both brands aren’t really big on engineer boots.
Nonetheless, both brands still offer a pretty impressive variety of styles, including loggers, soft toe boots, safety toe boots, light-duty boots, and pull-on boots. I’d have to say that Carolina offers more variety than Red Wing as far as styles.
Carolina is mostly known for its logger boots. The brand provides some of the best logger boots in the market, with the Pitstop Logger Comp Toe being an excellent example.
Both Carolina and Red Wing are known for their use of Goodyear welt construction, which is pretty much the standard in the work boots market nowadays.
Carolina is also known for Opanka construction, which is an old-fashioned way of construction shoes and boots. With Opanka construction, the entire piece of footwear is hand sewn.
It’s also worth noting that Red Wing is big on Stitchdown construction with its Heritage line. It’s yet another old-school method of stitching footwear.
One of the strong selling points of Carolina work boots and safety shoes is that they run true to size and offer a perfect, super comfortable fit. Carolina’s sizes range from 7 to 15.
Red Wing boots and shoes run true to size for the most part, but with some models like the Iron Ranger and Moc Toe, sizes run big by about half an increment. Red Wing’s sizes range from 7 to 16.
Safety Features and Protection
When in the market for a new pair of work boots, safety features should be at the top of your priorities list. How do Red Wing and Carolina perform in this category? Which brand is better?
When it comes to safety features and protection, it’s really hard to beat Carolina. Carolina boots provide remarkable protection against cold, heat, impact, and electricity. Virtually all Carolina boots meet the ASTM F2413 standard.
Redwing work boots are mostly steel toes. This makes them ideal for people working in the logging industry, but not so ideal for people surrounded by electricity.
That being said, Carolina reigns supreme in the safety category.
Comfort-wise, Carolina seems to be the superior brand for quite a few reasons. For starters, Carolina flaunts some of the most high-tech cushioning systems in the safety footwear market.
What’s more, Carolina boots are known to run true to size, so you won’t have to deal with boots that are slightly smaller or slightly bigger than your standard fit.
On top of that, Carolina boots utilize narrow shafts for the calves area to ensure a perfect fit. This spares you the hassle of having to wear super thick socks.
Red Wing boots are comfortable once you break them in. Like I mentioned earlier, Red Wing is known for its use of hard midsoles that can be uncomfortable during the break-in period.
Carolina boots, on the other hand, make use of Pillow Cushion, Pillow Cushion 2, and Poron Performance Cushioning for their soles, which makes them more comfortable than Red Wing boots.
As far as durability, I can confidently say that both Carolina and Red Wing produce some of the toughest work boots I’ve analyzed.
I can also say that Carolina boots are slightly more flexible than Red Wing boots, which can be viewed as a positive or a negative, depending on how you’re looking at it.
Seeing as both brands employ stitching/welting for the construction of their boots, you can have a Carolina boot or Red Wing boot resoled without any problems.
When it comes to conditioning, it’s recommended to use mink oil or boot oil on Red Wing boots. The conditioning should take place after you’ve cleaned the boots.
With Carolina boots, applying a few thin layers of a high-quality leather conditioner should be enough to keep your boots in good condition. I’d also recommend following up with liquid silicone to keep the seams intact.
Ideally, you should clean and condition your work boots once a month regardless of brand.
If you’re not sure how you should go about cleaning and conditioning a specific leather variety, be sure to reach out to the brand’s customer service.
Speaking of which, Red Wing Shoes flaunts some of the best customer service representatives I’ve ever dealt with. They’re very knowledgeable and friendly.
Where Are Carolina Boots Made?
Despite what many people think, not all Carolina boots are made in the USA. However, about 33 styles are made at the brand’s Martinsburg Pennsylvania Factory using fine components that are sourced from all over the world. These styles carry the “Made in America” stamp.
Where Are Red Wing Boots Made?
Some Red Wing boots are made in the USA, whereas others are made in China. The Heritage line, which includes the Classic Moc and the Iron Ranger, is made entirely in the USA.
It’s worth noting that Irish Setter boots are also made and fabricated overseas. They still make use of S.B. Foot Tanning leather, though.
Carolina boots are generally less expensive than Red Wing boots. Carolina boots cost anywhere from $60 to $280, whereas Red Wing boots cost between $100 and $400.
Does that mean Red Wing boots are more high-quality than Carolina boots? Not at all. So far in this comparison, Carolina has the upper hand. It just seems like Red Wing boots are a bit overpriced.
Where to Buy Carolina Boots?
Amazon is the best place to buy Carolina work boots and safety shoes. Other excellent outlets include Shepler’s and Work Boot Warehouse.
Where to Buy Red Wing Boots?
The best places to buy Red Wing work boots are Amazon and RedWingShoes.com. Sadly, it’s hard to find Red Wings in stores like Walmart, Shepler’s, Cabela’s, and Work Boots Superstore.
Be sure to check out my article on where to buy work boots for more insight on where you can purchase different brands of boots, including Wolverine boots, Thorogood boots, Danner boots, Chippewa boots, Ariat boots, Timberland PRO boots, Georgia boot, and more.
Final Verdict: Carolina or Red Wing?
All things considered, I believe Carolina boots offer much more value for the money than Red Wing boots.
Carolina boots offer better safety and protection, are more comfortable, and are more affordable. Not to mention that Carolina flaunts more variety in terms of styles than Red Wing.
The only category in which Red Wing is superior to Carolina is traction. Red Wing boots provide remarkable traction, which makes them ideal for hiking.
With all of that being said, the clear winner in Carolina vs Red Wing battle is Carolina Boots!
I’m Shaun Williams, editor-in-chief of Workwear Digest. My objective to help fellow blue-collar workers make informed buying decisions when choosing their workwear. I have over 15 years of combined experience with many industrial and manual labor jobs. I started out as a construction laborer and a part-time driver, then I worked as a heavy equipment operator. Currently, I work as an estimator for a local landscape company.